Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Norman Chronicles: Braising Saddles

Butchering your own meat can be intimidating, especially if, like me, you're not all that familiar with the traditional cuts and where they come from. The fun part is looking at it from the perspective of how you want to cook it, then making your decisions based on whether you like roasts or chops, or bone-in or boned-and-tied chunks for grilling or braising.

The saddle, for instance (left, held by Melinda at Portland's Culinary Workshop). As its name implies, it's the section of the back where you'd think a saddle would go, and it kind of looks like one. Containing the loins and the lower end of the ribs, you can cut chops and loin roasts from it, but I decided to cut it straight down the backbone and have a large, bony chunk of roast to braise.

Some folks might recoil in horror over braising this piece of meat rather than boning out the roasts and loins, but lamb loins are fairly small strips of meat, and I was already cutting chops from the upper end of the ribs.

See what I mean about getting to make decisions based on how you plan to cook it? Plus how cool does that backbone look sitting in the pot?

Michel's Braised Lamb

This lamb recipe is terrific braised and served the same day, but for a real treat make it a day ahead and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Holding it for a day gives the flavors a chance to meld deliciously, and it's easy to remove the solidified fat and the bones before reheating. Served with polenta (I used Ayers Creek Farm Amish Butter polenta), this is so good it's made converts of friends who say they don't like lamb.

1 4-lb. lamb roast (shoulder, saddle, etc.)
1 med. onion, coarsely chopped
1 med. red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 pasilla, ancho or poblano pepper, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp. cardamom pods, crushed, using just seeds inside
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 c. prunes, coarsely chopped
1 c. chicken stock
15 oz. can diced tomatoes (approx. 2 cups)
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In medium hot braising pot, brown shoulder in olive ol; salt and pepper each side. After first side of lamb is browned, add cumin and cardamom seeds to the oil around the lamb and briefly stir to toast. Add garlic and onion, stir until golden. Add peppers and stir until softened. Add canned tomatoes, stock and prunes and stir. Cover braising pot and place in middle of preheated oven. Simmer in oven at least 3 hours.

Remove lamb from pot. Cover and hold on heated platter. Skim fat from liquid in pan and bring to boil to reduce. Season to taste and pour over lamb.

Read the other posts in The Norman Chronicles: Getting to Shepherd's Pie, Shanks and Hearts and Neck and Neck.

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